When the picture is worth a thousand curds
June 8, 2015 12:35 PM   Subscribe

How do restaurant reviews get pictures of the meal/establishment being reviewed?

I like reading food critics, but have always wondered how the publisher goes about getting appropriate photography, especially if the restaurant doesn't know if it'll be an abrasive review or not. Do they send in a photographer a few days later? Ask for pictures from management? What if the restaurant objects to being reviewed (in cases like this one or something like this, though I'm sure that's incredibly rare, it tickles my imagination) - would they throw a photographer out?
posted by Gin and Broadband to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Longtime chef:

When reviewed by local media we are generally contacted and told that we are about to be reviewed and a photo-shoot is arranged. We are not told up front whether the review will be positive or not. The photographer dispatched for the shoot doesn't know either. You prepare some dishes and stand there getting your picture taken all the while knowing that you might be getting slammed.......nerve racking but necessary.
posted by Mr.Me at 12:53 PM on June 8, 2015 [7 favorites]

I don't know how high-profile publications do it, but mine reviews in secret and sends in a photographer announced closer to the publication date. The restaurant does not see the text of the review before it runs.
posted by beyond_pink at 12:53 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

It depends. If the reviewer is well known (reviewers for major publications in Toronto at least are terrible about even pretending to hide their identities) it'll be all "hey I'm here, here's a photographer."

Usually, though, it's a secret review followed by a photographer showing up at another time to take photos.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:08 PM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

at the new york restaurant I work at, smaller publications, usually international have a reviewer eating and a photographer taking pictures the same day. we know about it ahead of time. bigger mags and newspapers send the reviewer in secret and take pictures later. with NY times the critic will visit 3 or 4 times before the restaurant is contacted to set up a photo shoot.
posted by [tk] at 1:59 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Eater has an interview with Anita Lo that they published today where they talk about this a bit. She was saying that she missed Peter Wells - didn't recognize him when he came in to eat and was totally surprised when the NYT called about setting up photos. Then she had to wait for the review to come out so she didn't know whether it was positive or negative (it was positive - she's amazing).
posted by rdnnyc at 2:29 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Former freelance food writer here.

I worked for a local alternative magazine. The reviews were conducted secretly. I'd go to a restaurant, order a representative sample of the menu (i.e. an appetizer, couple of entrees, dessert, drinks if the restaurant was known for drinks), go home and write the review. I'd then contact the staff photographer with the details of the restaurant and what I ordered (and then I'd submit the article to my editor). The photographer didn't know if my review was negativee or positive, just what I ate. They would schedule the shoot with the restaurant and then the review with photos would magically appear in the magazine some time later.
posted by cooker girl at 4:16 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

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